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Title:【4K】Japan Walk - Tokyo ,Suginami ward,Kōenji,高円寺,west of Shinjuku, January 2021,Tokyo’s Retro Hub

【4K】Japan Walk - Tokyo ,Suginami ward,Kōenji,高円寺,west of Shinjuku, January 2021,#Tokyo#Kōenji#高円寺
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A short train ride from Shinjuku drops you at the front stoops of Koenji, Tokyo’s star neighborhood with an expanding creative scene and a center of alternative youth culture. Removed from the masses in the center of the city, this cozy hood exudes a laid-back attitude of the kind where shoppers endlessly browse in pursuit of vintage gems, and local izakaya stay filled with the sounds of clinking glasses, hearty cheers, and buzzing conversations till the wee hours of the night. Whether you choose to stay in an art hotel, soak in an onsen, enjoy live music in an underground bar or shop for vintage clothes – there’s much ado about Koenji, even if you’re on a low budget!

History and Background
Nestled within Suginami ward, together with neighboring Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Nishi-Ogikubo, Koenji makes its own name. Initially a sleepy farming settlement on the Ome-kaido Highway, Koenji saw an influx of small merchants and laborers displaced from downtown Tokyo by the destruction caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Increased population resulted in the development of the local economy and by 1950s Koenji became particularly popular for its tea and coffee houses and for the start of the Awaodori Festival.

While Shimokitazawa leans towards “hipster,” Koenji lies on a bit mature yet edgy end of the spectrum which is perhaps explained by the fact that it was once home to Tokyo’s punk scene in the 1970s. Interestingly, when the Japanese PSE law went into effect restricting the sale of electronic goods built before 2001, Koenji was chosen as the site for a protest due to its active “retro” culture and used equipment shops. These roots are very much alive in today’s Koenji and reflect on the vibrant suburban underground culture that includes multiple used records and clothing shops.

The district has also avoided the major modernization of the 1980s in Japan and oozes the retro character of pre-boom Japan, with most of the houses and shops in the area being small and quaint.

Visit Local Shrines

Touring temples might not be the very first thing that comes to mind while strolling allegedly Tokyo’s coolest neighborhood, but Koenji is actually well known for its numerous historical Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that have a cozier vibe and are very photogenic. My favorite is the Mabashi Inari Shrine hidden in the residential part of the district. Three grande torii gates lead the way – over a little bridge and through the shaded pathways lined up with vermilion lanterns – towards the shrine grounds.

Out of its three torii gates, it’s the stone one that stands out with striking carvings of dragons on each side called soryu, or paired dragons. In fact, this gate is one of the Three Dragon Gates of Tokyo. One dragon is climbing while the other is descending. It’s believed that if you make a wish while touching the rising dragon, it will deliver your wish to heaven to be granted. The tricky part is figuring out which one is which.


There is an abundance of thrift stores you can rummage around in for bargains, particularly around the so-called “Look Shopping Street” where the young come to look for cool, cutting-edge second-hand, clothing. Unlike other thrift stores around Tokyo, items here are well-priced and in a very good condition. Lover Soul and Sokkyo are two of my absolute favorite. The former carries an excellent range of retro ‘60s and ‘70s clothing at affordable prices, while the latter provides authentic Koenji vintage experience and is known for its highly curated selection of on-trend pieces for both men and women, mostly of American origin, as well as vintage pieces ranging from the 1920s to the 1990s.

If you are in the market for yukata or kimono, there are a few vintage shops for you as well. Check out Kirakuya – offering a huge selection of reasonably-priced vintage kimono – and Mame Budou – carrying kimono with unique motifs and patterns, as well as vintage beaded bags.

Koenji is also a music collector’s paradise stocking a lot of rare items in numerous vintage record shops. Attached to the station and to the west is Rare Records. When it comes to Western tunes, they mostly deal with rock, but don’t pass up their soul section as well. On the northern side of the station, check out En-Ban Records featuring records no one else would even attempt to sell. If you’re looking for something you can’t find anywhere else, this should be your number one destination. The place also functions as a bar and live house, and might be a cool place to hang out late at night. EAD Records, stocks a remarkable well-curated collection, primarily focusing on jazz, European dance music, and disco.



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